How Disposable is Computing and Disaster Recovery?

In the past, computer systems were massive and made to last. The hardware cost more than the software, and while various processor, RAM, and hard drive upgrades happened from time to time, organisations never junked their investments; they amortised them. Now, software costs (vastly) more than hardware, which in turn is available to a much larger market, including SMBs and individuals. As the following examples show, the question is now whether hardware systems are ever worth saving again.

The disposable computer was already in production more than 10 years ago. Costing about one US dollar (for bulk orders), offering 32 kilobytes of memory, and communicating via RFID, the device from the Cypak company was essentially a processor on a paperboard. It could be embedded into packing materials and used to track shipping and delivery.

Multiplying that unit cost by 10 to 100 (so, up to $100) brings us into the realm of all-in-one microcomputers like the Raspberry Pi and some entry-level smartphones and tablets. The disposable PC is a further possibility, a complete personal computer that is destined to be discarded rather than repaired, if problems prevent proper operation.

Even servers become disposable, in the sense that businesses can hand off their requirements to a cloud provider and bring servers into use or stop using them (and paying for them) according to their needs. So, what’s left for IT disaster recovery to do?

Tons of things, of course, concerning data, software, and system configurations, all of which are vital to business operations. DR has not become disposable, just because hardware can be thrown away (or recycled, we hope) or rented by the hour. It has simply changed its focus and its form, moving from physical computer boxes to virtual system concepts.

As hardware has become progressively cheaper, data has become increasingly valuable and the responsibilities for safeguarding and recovering data ever bigger. Disaster recovery therefore continues to be of critical importance.

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